Four aspects to consider while designing a green datacentre

This is a guest post by Chris Kelly, senior vice-president of datacentre solutions at Dell Asia-Pacific and Japan

Organisations across the globe are rapidly embracing sustainability goals and programmes, recognising that going green is not just beneficial to our planet but also good for business. The challenge, however, is to move from goals and promises to progress and action.

Over the past two years, the world has seen accelerated growth of data, digital transformation and the datacentre industry. The Dell Technologies digital transformation index 2020 revealed that 83.6% of businesses in Asia-Pacific and Japan fast-tracked digital transformation programmes since the onset of the pandemic. In Asia-Pacific, the datacentre segment was also valued at $25.58bn in 2020 and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 12.91% to reach $59.83bn by 2027.

Against the backdrop of sustainability, datacentres accounted for approximately 1% of global electricity demand, with global datacentre electricity use amounting to 200-250 terawatt-hours. According to the International Energy Agency, datacentres are some of the biggest consumers of energy globally, especially as demand for data services continues to rise exponentially.

Technology plays a critical role in driving a sustainable future and Dell has committed to achieve ambitious environmental goals, including achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions across its operations, supply chain and the use of its products by customers by 2050.

More than a third of our customers say renewable energy and green initiatives are key factors in choosing a colocation site for their datacentres. A study by Arizton found that Asia-Pacific is currently one of the most dynamic datacentre markets across the globe, with investments from colocation providers estimated to cross $12bn by 2026.

Dell recently announced a partnership with Equinix to provide and manage colocation centres for our Apex data storage services in Australia and other locations globally. Colocation is an effective way to enable businesses to outsource their datacentre services as well as reduce the amount of energy and resources they consume.

Moreover, Equinix has aggressive emission reduction targets and a 2030 global climate-neutral goal across the business, allowing us to work collaboratively towards a shared vision of advancing sustainability, in line with Dell Technologies’ 2030 moon-shot goals.

As we work closely with organisations to improve their datacentre sustainability, we often recommend they consider four key aspects:

Environmental

We look at innovative ways to reduce total datacentre heat waste and the overall carbon footprint of infrastructure. This ranges from improved layouts to the implementation of more efficient cooling technology as well as the use of sustainable hardware solutions.

As part of its social impact green plan, Japanese telecoms operator KDDI recently concluded an experiment to design a next-generation container datacentre that uses a liquid immersion cooling device to cools its servers with liquid and reduce power consumption. To achieve this, KDDI used customised servers from Dell Technologies to support immersion and operate in a modified environment.

By housing the server and the immersion cooling device in a container and demonstrating sufficient cooling performance, KDDI expects the power consumption of its datacentres to be reduced by about 43%, conserving energy and minimising carbon emissions.

Financial

Any improvements in datacentre energy efficiency and reduction can also lead to significant reduction in datacentre operating costs.

An example is Greenpanel, India’s largest manufacturer of wood panels. Through the use of superior technologies, renewable resources, and responsible consumption, the company has invested in environment integrity. It sought to upgrade its IT infrastructure and adopt new technologies to drive product innovation and enhance customer centricity by modernising its datacentre.

Greenpanel employed Dell VxRail, a hyperconverged infrastructure solution to help its mission-critical applications eliminate complexities in managing its aging infrastructure and to overcome storage size and scalability limitations.

By automating its datacentre operations, Greenpanel’s IT team was free to focus on business and IT innovations to reduce costs and optimise manufacturing and business operations. The financial and environmental outcomes were also significant – with a 60% reduction in its datacentre rack space, a 65-70% reduction in power consumption, as well as an overall 46% in operating expenditure savings.

Compliance

At the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow, heads of state and climate experts gathered to take actions to get to net zero emissions by 2050, reiterating the need for nations and organisations to ramp up on efforts to limit global warming.

Many governments across the region have also started to mandate a reduction in carbon output or the adoption of sustainable IT. Understandably, a similar emphasis has been placed at the organisational level to reduce the environmental impact of their IT infrastructure and meet national and industry standards.

By setting specific objectives to make their datacentres more energy efficient, businesses can look to reduce their overall carbon footprint as well as effectively meet compliance standards.

Efficiency

The sprawl of IT infrastructure can be a serious problem in a datacentre. A lack of consistency and the densities inside the datacentre can lead to a physical sprawl that takes up more space than needed.

In comparison, an energy efficient datacentre is one where customers set out an objective to do more with IT infrastructure within a smaller physical footprint – in other words, they strive to approach a 100% utilisation of rack and datacentre space.

In summary, we firmly believe that individuals and organisations are recognising the need to take action to reduce the impact on the environment. As IT sustainability becomes a growing priority, organisations should design their datacentres to optimise energy usage.

By working with the right technology partners and adopting a holistic approach that addresses the environmental, financial, compliance, and efficiency considerations, they can successfully help safeguard the environment while lowering their long-term operating costs.

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